Lucan’s Pharsalia

Rome civil war

 

Another great poetry must read includes Lucan‘s Pharsalia or Bellum Civile. Translated from the original Latin, Rowe retells in stunning verse the gripping story of the events leading to up to the death of the Roman Republic on the battlefields of Pharsalia. Lucan’s original unfinished work is supplemented by the later English poet Thomas May: who completes Book X’s account of Caesar’s intervention in the bitter dynastic struggles then tearing Egypt apart.

When Caesar crossed the Rubicon, the stage was becoming quickly set for Rome’s foremost generals age to face off on the battlefield to fight for supremecy. Pompey Magnus – successful general against pirates and Mithridates – championed a debauched and anaemic republic against Caesar: conqueror of Gaul backed by fanatically loyal Roman legions.

Caesar’s advance on Rome was terrifyingly swift: forcing Pompey’s retreat across the Strait of Otranto to Epirus. Having chased Pompey and his supporters out of the Italian peninsular, Caesar consolidated his hold in the West before departing Brundisium to pursue Pompey’s legions in the East.

  • Despite losing decisively at Pharsalia: Pompey himself is still not dead. Fleeing by ship with his wife Cornelia and son: where might the despondent ex-Consul find sanctuary?
  • Caesar is angered when he discovers Ptolemy XIII’s murder of his erstwhile son-in-law. Newly arrived with his fleet at Alexandria, he observes Egypt descend into the bloody chaos of dynastic struggle: should he intervene? And if so: on whose side?

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